Travel:Naga City, Bicol

sneakerIt was a while ago, when I had the chance to go to Bicol at the invitation of a friend to attend the Our Lady of Penafrancia Pilgrimage.  Our Lady of Penafrancia is the patroness of Naga City in Bicol, a canonized replica of the Our Lady in Penafrancia, said to have been discovered by Simon from an apparition. The largest Marian Pilgrimage in the Philippines, millions of folks come to join in prayer and festivity. I have witnessed how weary travelers come to church and sleep on the floor waiting for the mass and procession.

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Part of the celebration is band parade and competition participated by schools in the area, colorful, but it must be tiring for them having to stand erect in full costume under the heat of the sun.

Not my first time, I was sponsor to a wedding of a friend and law school classmate, so many years ago, she probably has grandkids now, he he.., it was an up and back trip that I didn’t have a chance to appreciate the sites and marvel on the Bicol flavors. This time it was different, I wanted to take pictures and just savor everything there is about Bicol.

Bicol is at the end of Southwestern Luzon with several provinces. They have their own language (I was rightfully corrected by my goddaughter, that a dialect can’t be understood by all, it stands on it’s own whereas language, although of different intonations and spellings can be understood by all) Did that make it sound more complicated.

Anyway, Bicol is a tourist destination, with farming and fishing as source of its livelihood. There is a province known for its metal production of knives and cutting implements. It was rather painful to see the rice fields damaged by a recent typhoon and hearing the lamentations of a landowner that they had to borrow money for seedlings and fertilizer only to sustain such a damage. They end up being buried in debt, and we thought that owning properties can sustain one’s existence. NOT.

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Pili, a nut with a very hard shell, almost like almond. But the nut has more oil, the single nut is encased in a husk that is also edible.

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Bicol can be reached by plane or land transportation, in our case we drove more than 8 hours from Manila. There were patches of heavy traffic, the roads were not that wide and there were trucks plying with supplies from the city. It was not a boring road trip as the scenery along the way is breathtaking. Going through the zigzag of Atimonan, Quezon with a well appointed rest stop.  If you’re going to drive though, note that there are never ending road widening projects in some cities along the way.

This is where the majestic Mayon Volcano is.  The most photographed Cagsawa ruins sit at the foot of the perfect cone volcano. It has erupted quite a number of times, in fact when we were, the volcano was threatening to erupt, spewing smoke. Residents were evacuated to the the next town, a safe distance. Fortunately, after weeks of living in the town hall and schools, leaving behind their means of livelihood, livestock and plants. Image below is from the website bicol website, I wasn’t able to take a good picture because of bad weather.

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Anyway, we were told that the church was damaged by the eruptions, however there were articles refuting such a historical fact. Old photos and accounts of residents and historians noted that the damages sustained by the church is caused by the lack of maintenance.  The church was built without combustible materials and the tour guide was saying it was glued egg whites, although I can’t find anything online about it. CAn’t verify the veracity of such claims.   Wow, if that were true there must be an abundance of eggs at the time, I think it was the early 1800s.

Bicol being one of the first areas in the Philippines converted to Catholicism boasts a number of old Catholic churches, I was able to take a few pictures, impressive antique churches that were able to withstand time and the harsh weather of the area. Very impressive, and unlike in Europe where most old churches were just a thing for tourists to admire, these churches are still in use.. it was a wonderful feeling to be able to commune with the Lord in such a quiet environment, no distractions.

We went on a hike wanting to see the famous waterfall on the Mt. Isarog National Park, hah, of course I didn’t make it, they made it but I had to content myself with the beauty below. It was refreshing to see such natural beauty. What’s amazing for me, that is, is there are folks trekking laden with pots of food and other stuff for a picnic. I suppose there is a clearing somewhere near the top where folks can savor food and good company with such such a beauty in the background.

Street foods are a site to feast on too, with colorful rice cakes and other fried items, because of the Feast of Penafrancia, there are more vendors than on a regular day. It is an opportunity because of the influx of visitors.

The famous toasted siopao (more like meat rolls) originated from Bicol, they also have their own version of noodle soup, called “kinalas”. The broth is from boiled roast pork, beef, or chicken. Boiled until the meat has fallen off of its bones. It is topped with meat, boiled egg with a thick brown sauce. A noodle fan myself, I’d say it is not any different from the mami or ramen but the mixture of flavors is something that hits the spot especially on cold days.

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Spicy with coconut milk are basic flavours of Bicol dishes, like pinangat, it has meat or fish wrapped in taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and top with thick coconut sauce. Taro leaves lined to the pot with fish are also cooked in coconut milk and spices for the famous laing. Shrimp paste is compacted in little cubes, ooh it smells but great to season almost any dish.

Being near the ocean, Bicol boasts a lot of seafood and dried fish, what a joy to go around their market and see different varieties.

Just like any big city, Naga City has an array of white linen restaurants, corner street stalls, of course the quick and easy fast foods, fusion, and international cuisines. Can’t complain about where to eat, after all eating is a favorite Filipino activity, we eat when we’re celebrating, we eat when we’re sad, we meet friends to eat, and so on.

We had lunch at Baste’s Garden restaurant, it is simple and inexpensive Filipino fare, the main attraction is that there is a mini zoo in the huge property. Monkeys, alligators, birds, and such. Facilities are simple but clean, service staff are courteous.

There is a row of restaurants on Ceriza along Magsaysay Avenue, we went to Chef Doy’s, a Filipino restaurant, not foofo but the decors is distinctly Filipino, food is good, the spicy ones didn’t appeal to me as I don’t care for them but all the others are absolutely delicious. You know what makes food more appetizing is the presentation, they get plus points for that, it is comfort food an uumph.

Then we went to the Grissini restaurant in the same neighborhood, also good, the decor reminds me of California, it’s not original, but you know with so many restaurants popping up everywhere original decors or flavors are hard to comeby. Almost everything has been tested and tried, the criteria then is whether or not it touches your palate the right way, hit the spot, so to speak.

Grissini did that, their thin crust pizza is good, what my tastebuds are expecting, we shared plates of vongole, red sauce, and alfredo. We had to return the vongole for a retouch. Not sure why, it is always the case with this kind of pasta, the combination of white wine and clam juice. Not sure if the sauce does not match the pasta. All in all though, it was a great experience.

For dessert, aside from the usual rice cakes, the city boasts of good coffee shops, it was a great meal closer, palate cleaner.. yummy

Still so many places to visit, so little time, on your way back, don’t forget to get some delicacies, or try the longanisa from Lucban.

What a wonderful trip it was, a great way to reconnect with a friend and enjoy the sights and flavors of the place. Sorry, this was a long post, there are still places to see.. till next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel: Davao City

Davao is a highly urbanized city in the south, touted as the safest city in the Philippines, it has gained popularity to tourist and locals alike because of the discipline implemented all throughout the city.

Many years ago when the three of us graduated from college and we promised to see each other at least every 4 years, we lost contact and only found each other on Facebook. We decided to visit Davao City, we didn’t know about Duterte then, he was a mayor alright, but nothing really caught our attention. Her son had a serious motorcycle accident that he is recuperating in Davao being close to the hospital with a good neurosurgeon.

We hastility bought our tickets far off from the scheduled flight for a good discount, voila the President has been elected and installed, and Davao City has been placed in the map of frequently visited by tourist. The President maintaining a residence in Davao also makes the City a destination for dignitaries, politicians, and business people.If they want an audience with the President they have to be where he is.

We were excited, aside from seeing our friend, Shen that we haven’t seen in a long time, it was an experience to behold. So off we went to the Durian land, we arrived late in the evening, one thing that was noticeable was the airport, everything is orderly. There are guards on the exit gate that takes the plate number and passenger name for security and for instances where something is left on the cab. After a quick pick me up at Jollibee, we decided to call it a night, of course after more updates.

The following morning, we went for breakfast at the Marco Polo breakfast buffet, decided to stay in a hotel but the hotel has no rooms available. The spread was quite extensive of different themes and varieties. So we said, “okay let’s go for a city tour first, then find another hotel.

We rented a cab for the whole day, for a city tour, got to see the famous 911 station. We got to visit the neighborhood of the President. You’ll probably wonder, what the come on is all about, when it is but a simple home. It is the home of the President and h e still stays there despite the elegant residence in the Palace in Manila.

We stopped at the crocodile farm, but didn’t go in after all we’ve been to the one in Florida or is it New Orleans?

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As we were heading out, we saw Baste Duterte, the youngest son of the President of course, the girls would like to take pix, I opted out, the gramma is tired. He was very pleasant and agreed to have his picture taken.

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Pictures are not that great, we were interested in talking than being a tourist, I guess. There is this place called Jack’s ridge, with a coffee shop on top of the hill, great place to relax.

One thing I noticed though, they don’t take too kindly to smokers, no smoking allowed in the area, to do so, one needs to go to outside the gates and smoke their lungs away.

Then it’s to find our hotel, we ended up staying at the Waterfront Hotel, pretty nice. We were told it’s going to be a room with a view, only to find out that one has to be positioned at a certain spot in the balcony, otherwise the view is the walkway roof.

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But all in all the property is quite impressive, it is sitting on a beachfront and quite massive with a place to walk around. I’m glad we ended up staying here instead of a one building hotel.

Look at the smoking area, it is sitting so far off from the property with signs that can really deter smoking he he..

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This is the smoking pen, no food or drinks allowed.

While having breakfast at the hotel, we chatted with the folks from the next table, that’s the fun part of travelling, one gets to talk to folks that we wouldn’t otherwise do. Anyway, he is Col Carlos Sol, Jr. retired military man and is heading the ceasefire secretariat. It was a wonderful chat, he agreed that the history needs to be corrected about the death of the 40 military man, which wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the greed of those in the know to get the reward money offered by the US. He was with his daughter who just graduated college.

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Some of the sights from the hotel.

Davao is know for durian, a thorny husked fruit with pulpy flesh that emits foul, almost offensive odor, because of the smell it is not allowed in hotel rooms. There are stalls in the city with tables and chairs where folks can partake. Armed with plastic gloves they can partake with gusto. Not me though, I can enjoy the candy but not the fruit.

All in all, our trip was a good one, the next time we do visit Davao, we will be armed with an itinerary of places to visit and local eating places to try.

Cheers–

Travel: Olutayan Island in Roxas City, Capiz

It was not planned, or maybe I wasn’t part of the planning, he he.. as most of the time I have opted to stay in rather than trek a long trail, with a long drive and a not so calm boat ride.

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We were hosted by the Vice Mayor of Capiz, Erwin Sicad and Ging Bayoneta. We had to be early to catch the ferry or is it a boat ride to the island, a good 45 minutes ride, although chartered, we still had to maintain schedule. We went to the estuary near the market, for our ride.

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Vice Mayor of Roxas City, Capiz Erwin Sicad and Ging Bayoneta

The estuary in itself was a treat, houses on the water, the water was murky but without that stale water smell, where even Lake Merritt in Oakland would emit such a smell. It is an art on its own, folks despite evident need just exudes contentment, such a pastoral, quiet scene. I enjoyed watching an old man in his small boat casting a net to catch small fish for consumption or sale.

So after a few minutes wait, we boarded a ferry that will take us to the island, it was indeed a ride that is well worth it. It was a very smooth sail and a great view.

We were told that the forces collide in bad weather claiming lives where the river ends and the ocean opens.

The beach is immaculate, since it is not a commercial resort, the island is clean, there are signs that smoking is not allowed in the beach area. There are about 700-900 residents of the island, mostly children. Surprisingly, there is cellphone signal, however electricity is rationed, if I remember it right, lights are turned off by 9:00 pm. Erwin jokingly said that it is the reason why there are many children in this community. Water comes from the mainland, via the ferry. I suggested a filtration system, but may not be that feasible considering the cost and the number of folks benefiting from it.

The children go to school in the mainland, fishing is the main source of livelihood of the area.

It was a bit rocky but with a lot of sea creatures, it was truly a place to visit. What was appealing to the place is its unadulterated, pure, and simple display of beauty of nature as God has intended.

Seafood were sold at good prices, they purchased fish and squid for maybe PHP300.oo, a lot, as we were able to bring home some. This is a version of the urchin found on the island, we returned it as we don’t want to partake or kill it, environmental responsibility is a good practice.

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Sea Urchin

We didn’t stay too long, as it was a bit too hot, wish there is a hotel or a simple b&b in the area for a longer stay.

Thanks Erwin and Ging for the experience, it was indeed a wonderful one.

 

Travel Dining:River boat restaurant, Capiz

This is reminiscent of the ferry ride along the Mississippi River, post Yolanda, the operator was lamenting about the ravages caused by the typhoon.  This is actually a floating cottage pulled by  motor/pump boat, up and back a stretch of the river. It is very serene, great for relaxation. I saw on TV that they do offer spa treatment while on board. I think it is about a 3-hour trip. So wonderful, so relaxing. Highly recommended.

The offerings were quite good, grilled fish, noodles, fruits, barbecue pork, and stewed chicken. A pretty good selection. Here are some of the pictures.

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Travel Dining: Roxas City, Capiz

Homecooked meals were  a feast in itself, seafood, even a whole lechon, or chicken etc. Still for a change of scenery, baybay is still the best choice. What better way to savor your meal,  than being around nature. There are at least 3 restaurants in that district.  The menus are quite extensive, from a huge selection of seafood: stewed, grilled, fried, or anyway you want. The ambiance is laid back, just my style.

Oh, be mindful of the drinking water, insist on hot water or bottled water or try buko (young coconut) juice. And if you are dining al fresco as in this case, make sure you have apply “off lotion” to protect against mosquito bites (remember the Philippines is a tropical country). It is your best protection against dengue.  I did see on the news that there is a recent FDA approval for the antidote, still you want to be on the safe side.

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There are the regular fares downtown, that you see anywhere, Jollibee, Goldilocks, etc. but that is something that we don’t really look fSSoor when on vacation.

By the way, if you are vacationing on your own or with a group, staying at a homestead, you can always ask the host to prepare a meal for you, that is a cheaper alternative. Or partake of the street foods, it is safe and tasty.

Did you hear about that European guy who just packed up and left his country to be with his Filipina girlfriend? He is making money selling banana crepes (turon), as in selling street food. Their location is not very far from Capiz.

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Speaking of foreign diners, remember I was telling you in the previous post about the USNS Mercy docked in Capiz, so staff and crew are around the city is abuzz with activity, must be good for business. Of course, they are young and curious of everything different or new, in this case, of trying balut (fertilized duck egg). But then, that’s a story for another day. They found it nasty, it is after all an acquired taste.

Cheers –

Travel: San Antonio Resort (with USNS Mercy in Conversation) – Roxas City, Capiz

If you read my previous post on Capiz, where I was talking about “Baybay”, right across that public park is a private resort, called San Antonio Resort, a private resort where locals and tourists alike frequent.

It has a pool that has the appearance of an eternity pool, on the other side is a late. The property is quite big, there are rooms, suites for overnight visitors. Also a venue for big events like weddings, debuts, and seminars for corporations and the government.

I didn’t get to see the rooms as my friend’s house is almost a hotel on its own, but the facilities of this place is great, clean and well maintained. The restaurant does not have fancy menu but more comfort Filipino food. Their mango shake is great, you can opt for no sugar or no cream, they have halo halo, lumpia and of course, pancit among other things. This is a good place to just hang out be with friends.

Incidentally, when we were there, there were a lot of US Military personnel from the USNS Mercy, the largest floating hospital managed and owned by the US Military.

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“USNS Mercy T-AH-19 2005”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USNS_Mercy_T-AH-19_2005.jpg#/media/File:USNS_Mercy_T-AH-19_2005.jpg

found out that they were the conduit of non profit agencies and the military. The guys that we met were acting as a point men, they scope the location for safety, even look for locations for the staff R&R, how cool is that. They were trained in the military or academically. Two of them speaks Chinese, another Filipino. Everything is set up for the USS Mercy and they were getting ready for another assignment.

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One will go to Bataan to talk about sexual harassment and sexual assault, noting the number of cases occurring in the Philippines. I had to ask him, “why? that seems to be an internal problem”. He responded, remember the Bible, when nobody from his neighborhood believes that Jesus is the Messiah. It’s the same case here, he noted the credibility and trust is hard to come by when talking about delicate issues as this one. Nodding in agreement, I was in awe, heck I didn’t know that the US military extends their help this much. I know, i know, you’re going to say, don’t be too impressed after all Pemberton has just been found guilty of murder and on our soil, but he is bad apple in the bushel.

Anyway, they shred this story bout a local in Capiz who had accident and brought to the hospital, while they were there coordinating eye examinations for surgery. The local hospital not being equipped with facilities can only offer amputation to save his life. Their boss intervened and said to hold on while he made his phone calls. It turned out that the USNS Mercy has a number of state of the art artificial legs, so they took him aboard for surgery and fitted with the AL. The patient walked away with a $10K applince for free. Super wow…

It was great to enjoy the location, beat the heat and gain new insights, which I wouldn’t have otherwise learned, had I stayed home. They don’t toot their horn, eh.

Cheers–

 

Travel: Roxas City, Capiz

Travel: Roxas City, Capiz

It was in the 80’s, we just graduated from college (pretty much tells I am approaching senior citizen status) when we, that is my friend SP and I, promised that we are going to her hometown in Capiz when we graduate. Little did I know that just graduating from college will not hack it. We have to find a job that will pay rent and be able to pay bills as an adult. Hah! So many years later, we finally melded our schedules and went to Capiz.  Not just once, but twice he he.

Capiz is the seafood capital of the Philippines, supplying most restaurants in the neighboring areas up to Metro Manila. They also export seafood to Taiwan, Japan and the US. They have a fish drying station.

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I would say, that the city has a quiet beauty, nothing grand. a bit rustic which is part of its charm. The province was also affected by typhoons. True, the city doesn’t have the grandeur of other cities, it is unpretentious, the camaraderie of the locals, always helpful especially at pointing directions is notable. I know that this quiet pastoral existence will not be for long, before it gets swallowed by this thing called progress, true that it is good for the economy, already it is host to several BPOs, there are 2 malls, with SM expected to rise in 2018. (The rise of SM in a city signals economic growth.)

Folks hang out in “baybay” a public park, to socialize, picnic, near the area are good restaurants., which I will share in another post.

I love the market, fruits, meat, seafood, of course, livestock, etc. Diwal or angel wing is plentiful only in the area.

Ah, I can go on and on, there’s just so much to see in a vacation mode, you may have guessed that I am the lounging type, if it involves more walking then I better stay in one place.

Cebu Pacific and PAL flies to Capiz directly, if you have fear of flying, you can take a road trip it is called RoRo, where you take the bus and the bus is loaded on a ferry for an inter-island travel or you can take the ship.

Hope you have the chance to visit.

Cheers —